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IB glare on Dutch NGOs - Bid to scuttle NE projects alleged

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ANDREW W. LYNGDOH, KHELEN THOKCHOM, VINOD SINGH AND UMANAND JAISWAL
  • Published 15.06.14
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New Delhi, June 14: Dutch NGOs are trying to scuttle energy projects in the Northeast, an Intelligence Bureau report has claimed.

“Dutch government-funded NGOs have slowly shifted focus from human rights (issues) in Kashmir to the twin issues of violence against women and prevention of extractive industries in the Northeast,” the IB report dated June 3 states.

According to the report, Cordaid, a Dutch NGO, plans to scuttle oil drilling in three districts of Manipur (Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Jiribam), all big dams in Arunachal Pradesh and mining projects (uranium and limestone) in Meghalaya.

Cordaid is a funding agency for NGOs and, according to its website, is one of the few international organisations collaborating with civil society organisations in the Northeast “in the pursuit of peace and justice”.

It states that its emphasis lies in “strengthening inter-ethnic societal networks that are seeking to reduce levels of violence and injustice”.

Security agencies, which undertook a “network analysis” of anti-nuclear activism against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, claim the existence of a “superior network”, driven by Greenpeace and renowned activists, under which there are five “territorial networks”, including the Khasi Students Union, which is opposed to uranium mining in Meghalaya’s Khasi hills.

The reports says in October last year, at a “training programme” in Shillong, another Dutch group, The Coalition Factory, had taught activists of 10 Northeast NGOs to use GPS tracking to update a GIS platform on extractives in the Northeast by mapping oil wells, mines, dams, forests and habitation and recording the environmental impact of oil slicks, forest denudation and sites earmarked for land acquisition.

“The above inputs would create a realistic GIS database to facilitate targeted local protests and international activism,” the report says.

At the session, Cordaid reportedly reiterated its focus on oil drilling in Manipur as its “primary target” and openly declared its intent to target big dams in Arunachal Pradesh and mining projects in Meghalaya.

The report says internal documents reveal Cordaid’s resolve to stall the Dutch-registered, Indian-owned Jubilant Oil Company’s plans to explore oil in Manipur. It says at the Shillong session, the trainers (two Dutch and one from the US) constantly reminded participants that the oil reserves “belonged to the tribals of Manipur and ought to be preserved for their own use in the future”. The trainers allegedly provoked the trainees by telling them that the government, in collaboration with multinational companies, was “stealing the resources” of the region and was refusing to remove the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act as it needed the army to extract the resources, the reports says.

Already burdened with socio-political and militant rebellions in the region, the Centre, which wants to tap the energy potential of the Northeast, including uranium mining in Meghalaya and the huge, almost 50,000MW, hydel power potential in Arunachal Pradesh, seems to see more than just environmental activism by the NGOs. Its worries stem from the suspicion that the organisation plans to internationalise matters. The suspicion is supported by information, intelligence agencies claim.

Besides activity, the government is keeping a watch on “routing of funds” by the NGOs. The report says two NGOs were routing funds to the Manipur Coalition on Extractives that includes Rural Women Upliftment Society and the Centre for Organisation Research and Education. The government is now trying to clamp down on Indian NGOs who are allegedly being used to route money for activism.

Reacting to the IB report, KSU president Daniel Khyriem denied the allegations. “The allegations are baseless and unfounded. We neither attended any training programme nor received any funding,” he said over phone.

The Centre for Organisation Research and Education (CORE), an Imphal-based NGO, admitted receiving a “small amount” of fund from the Dutch group but denied the charge that the fund was for activism and activities against oil drilling. “We received the fund under a project for conservation of environment and natural resources. The charge that the money was for use in activism against oil drilling is totally wrong,” CORE president Laifungbam Debabrata Roy said.

He also denied knowledge of the existence of Manipur Coalition on Extractives as claimed by the report. No member of the Churachandpur-based Rural Women for Upliftment Society was available for comment. However, Roy said the society worked for conservation of environment and natural resources.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the Siang People Forum, the Forum for Siang Dialogue and the Adi Student Union, who are opposed to big dams, denied “any knowledge” of funding by the Dutch NGO or of any IB report. Siang People Forum chairman Ojing Tasing said some organisations were pumping in money to influence locals to support the construction of dams but they would “not allow big dams” because it posed a threat to their fragile environment and livelihood.

Assam’s home commissioner G.D. Tripathi said they had no information about any Dutch NGO funding any organisation in the state. “However, our reports suggest a Pune-based NGO was involved in mobilising support against the NHPC dam in the early days of the protest,” he added.